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Works Ministry officials meet over Exorbitant Bus Fares

The huge number of travelers prompted transporters to hike their fares. Bus fares to up country areas have more than doubled. For example, transport fares to the northern Uganda route specifically to Gulu has increased to between Shillings 100,000 and 130,000 from Shillings 40, previously. Travelers to Elegu border post are paying Shillings 150,000.
Ugandans stranded as they seek to travel upcountry

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The Government through the Ministry of Works and Transport has discussed the exorbitant transport fares to different parts of the country.   Transport fares skyrocketed on Monday morning a few hours after the president, Yoweri Museveni announced new COVID-19 measures to contain the surge of infections.

The new measures included the schools, closure of prayers houses and ban on inter-district travels for the next 42 days. However, the president gave a three days window to allow learners to return home before the ban on inter-district travel takes effect.

The president only made an exception for the Kampala Metropolitan Area that consists of Kampala city, Mukono and Wakiso Districts. 

The president’s directive triggered panic among Ugandans fearing a full lockdown forcing thousands of Ugandans to flock to taxi and bus parks to travel upcountry using the three days window. The huge number of travellers prompted transporters to hike their fares. Bus fares to upcountry areas have more than doubled.  

For example, transport fares to the northern Uganda route specifically to Gulu have increased to between Shillings 100,000 and 130,000 from Shillings 40, previously. Travellers to Elegu border post are paying Shillings 150,000.   Travellers to places such as Ntungamo and Ibanda district are paying Shillings150, 000, Kanungu Shillings 180,000 and Mbarara Shillings 100,000 from Shillings 40,000 previously. 

The fares to Mbale, Bukedea, Ngora, Kumi and Soroti among others in Eastern Uganda have also increased from between Shillings 35,000 and 40,000 to Shillings 100,000.   The high transport fares prompted several travellers to spend the night in the bus park. Uganda Radio Network has since learnt that the Works and Transport Ministry met in a crisis meeting on Tuesday to chat away forward.   

The former Minister of Works in charge of transport, Joy Kabatsi described the situation as alarming, saying Ministry of works official were in a meeting to forge away forward. “My people are in a meeting, we don’t have a solution yet but it is a big problem really. It is being discussed, and hopefully, it will be resolved,” Kabatsi told URN in a phone interview.       

The meeting later resolved to lift the curfew restrictions on buses to allow travellers to head home. The meeting, which also involved representatives from the Health and Finance Ministry officials also resolved to engage the bus companies on the fares and also source buses from government agencies like Uganda Prisons, Civil Aviation Authority and Finance Ministry among others to transport students.  

This is not the first time travellers are failing to travel because of the president’s announcement. In March last year, hundreds of people spent nights in bus and taxi parks over the scarcity of vehicles following the announcement of the nationwide lockdown as part of the Coronavirus containment measures.

More than 2000 desperate travellers spent a night in bus and taxi parks due to the curfew restrictions. Transporters doubled the transports fares. However, this time around the fares have more than doubled.  The transporters say the fares are high because of increased demand and the need to compensate for the time they will not be working.

Marvin Musoke, a booking clerk with Goglon Coaches Bus Company, says the bus companies are trying to compensate for the 42 days that they will not be working since they also need to survive. He also says that the fares are high because they are operating at half capacity to comply with the physical distancing requirement.  

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A booking Clerk with Baby Coaches said that the fare is simply high because of the demand.  “The people are just so many, but we have to social distance, and if you don’t, they impound your bus, so that is why the charge is high,” he says.  

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